The English used in this article or section may not be easy for everybody to understand. (November 2011)
God is a being or spirit worshipped as a deity. He is considered to be the creator of the universe in some religions. Theists believe that God created everything that exists and has ever existed. Some theists think God is immortal (cannot die) and has power without limits. Deism is the belief that God exists, but God does not very often change or never changes things in the universe. Pantheism is the belief that the universe is God, while atheism is the belief that there are no deities. Agnostics think we cannot know for sure whether God or gods exist, but still might (or might not) believe at least one deity exists. People who believe that the word "God" should be defined before taking a theological position are ignostic.
In some religions, there is only one deity, God. This is called monotheism. Some monotheistic religions are the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), the Bahá'í Faith, and Sikhism. In other religions there are many gods. This is polytheism. Some polytheistic religions are Hinduism, Shinto, Taoism, paganism, Wicca and some variants of Buddhism. Some say that there is one God who can come in many forms, or that there is one God that is more powerful than the other gods.
In philosophy and theology, people normally write about a God that has a personality but no body and is everywhere at once; that God made the world and time and is separate from the world; that no-one made God; that God knows everything and has all power; that God is both free and good; and that God is perfect and the start of all morality.
In English, people write the words "god" and "gods" are in lowercase letters. People that believe in only on god (monotheists) like to write God with a capital letter. Some people that believe in more than one god (polytheists) also like to use capital letters when writing about their gods. Most people that believe in God or gods do not believe in the gods of other religions.
Does God exist?[change | change source]
Many people have asked themselves if God exists. Philosophers, theologians, and others have tried to prove that it exists. Others have tried to disprove the hypothesis. In philosophical terminology, such arguments are about the epistemology of the ontology of God. The debate exists mainly in philosophy, because science does not address whether or not supernatural things exist.
There are many philosophical issues with the existence of God. Some definitions of God are not specific. Arguments for the existence of God typically include metaphysical, empirical, inductive, and subjective types. Some theories try to explain order and complexity in the world without evolution or scientific method. Arguments against the existence of God typically include empirical, deductive, and inductive arguments. Conclusions sometimes include: "God does not exist" (strong atheism); "God almost certainly does not exist" (de facto atheism); "no one knows whether God exists" (agnosticism); "God exists, but this cannot be proven or disproven" (deism or theism); and "God exists and this can be proven" (theism). There are many variations on these positions, and sometimes different names for some of them. For example, the position "God exists and this can be proven" is sometimes called "gnostic theism" or "strong theism".
Believing in God[change | change source]
By the year 2000, approximately 53% of the world's population were part of one of the three main Abrahamic religions (33% Christian, 20% Islam, less than 1% Judaism), 6% with Buddhism, 13% with Hinduism, 6% with traditional Chinese religion, 7% with various other religions, and less than 15% as non-religious. Most of these religious beliefs involve God or gods. Some religions do not believe in a god or do not include the concept of gods.
God in the Abrahamic religions[change | change source]
Abrahamic religions are very popular monotheistic ones. Well-known Abrahamic religions include Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Monotheistic means the people in these religions believe there is only one God. The name of God is usually not allowed to be said in Judaism, but some Jews today call him YHWH (Yahweh) or Jehovah. Muslims say the word Allah, which is the Arabic word for "God".
Believers in the Abrahamic religions (except Islamic believers) believe that God has created human beings in his image, but this idea is not easily understood by humankind. One artistic idea is that of an wise elder man in use since the Renaissance.
God in Christianity[change | change source]
The Christian Bible talks about God in different ways. Within Christian canon the Old Testament talks about "God the Father", whilst the Gospels in the New Testament are about Jesus, or "God the Son". Many Christians believe that Jesus was God's incarnation on Earth. Christians consider the Holy Spirit to be God as well, the third person of God.
In the New Testament, there are three beings who are said to be God in different forms: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (also known as the Holy Ghost). This is called the Trinity. Although the word "Trinity" is not in the Bible, the word used for God in chapter one of Genesis is actually plural, and the phrase "in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit' is used in the New Testament, (e.g. Matthew 28:19). Another word that Christians believe has exactly the same meaning as "Trinity" is the word "Godhead", which is in the Bible.
Christians believe that God incarnated in a human body, through the normal birth process, normally growing up into a man named Jesus or (Yeshua), coming to Earth specifically to give every person an opportunity of salvation from their own evil, called sin. The effect of personal evil far transcends the repercussions humans cause to one another in the world, but affects one's relationship with God the Father, and that aspect of the self cannot be addressed through one's own self-improvement efforts, but requires God to intervene in order to set one right. When Jesus prayed and talked to God, he called him "Father," and taught others to do the same.
Jesus also taught that one must be born again in order to receive God's Spirit, otherwise one remains separated from God, acting merely from their own mind, thus being vulnerable to deception by human philosophies or the many spiritual philosophies which do not come from God but from fallen angels, which are within various false religions. After a person consciously accepts the free gift of eternal life, which Jesus's sacrifice offers, God comes to live in the individual, as God lived in humankind before the Fall.
God in Eastern religions[change | change source]
In Hinduism, there is only one God, named Brahman, but Brahman is said to have taken on many different incarnations. Some of these are Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Shiva, Kali, Parvati, and Durga. To many outsiders, the worship of God's different incarnations is considered to be the worship of many gods. However, it is really only the worship of one God in different ways.
In Shinto, there is not a single specific God, as is in most religions, but instead, a wide variety of deities called kami, they are the spirit and essence of all nature things, both animate and inanimate, even including rocks, trees and poetry, for example. As Shinto is a polytheistic religion, it is usually believed that there are eight-million Kami (八百万の神 yaoyorozu-no-kami), in the Japanese language, the number "eight-million" is normally used to mean infinity.
God in Western philosophy[change | change source]
Philosophers can talk about God or god; sometimes they talk about a specific god, but other times they are just talking about the idea of god.
One of the earliest Western philosophers to write about God in a monotheistic way was the Greek Aristotle, who describes god as the Supreme Cause. Aristotle saw God as a being that makes everything happen, but is not influenced by anything else.
The idea of an "all powerful" God raises some interesting questions. One of them is called the God paradox. It asks whether God can make a mountain (or rock) that is so heavy he cannot lift it. The question considers if a god "who can do anything" could do two things that are mutually contradictory.
There have been several attempts to prove the existence of God with logic. Blaise Pascal said that it is better to believe there is a god, than to believe there isn't. This argument is known as Pascal's wager today. Note that Blaise Pascal was a mathematician, and he used this argument to illustrate the concept of expected value in statistics. Other attempts known as the ontological argument, the cosmological argument, and teleological argument today. Kurt Gödel formulated an argument for the existence of God using modal logic in the 1970s.
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References[change | change source]
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- Swinburne, R.G. (1995), "God", in Honderich, Ted (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Oxford University Press,
...most philosophical theologians... have generally regarded him as a personal being, bodiless, omnipresent, creator and sustainer of any universe there may be, perfectly free, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and a source of moral obligation; who exists eternally and necessarily....
- "10 Powerful Names of God (And What They Mean for Us Today)".
- "Omnipotence (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy/Summer 2002 Edition)". plato.stanford.edu.
- Dawkins, Richard (23 October 2006). "Why There Almost Certainly Is No God". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2007-01-10.
- National Geographic Family Reference Atlas of the World, p49.